AFTER two years I remember the rest of that day, and that night and
the next day, only as an endless drill of police and photographers and
newspaper men in and out of Gatsby's front door. A rope
stretched across the main gate and a policeman by it kept out the
curious, but little boys soon discovered that they could enter through
my yard, and there were always a few of them clustered
open-mouthed about the pool. Someone with a positive manner, perhaps a
detective, used the expression "madman" as he bent over Wilson's body
that afternoon, and the adventitious authority of his
voice set the key for the newspaper reports next morning.
Most of those reports were a nightmare-grotesque, circumstantial,
eager, and untrue. When Michaelis's testimony at the inquest brought to
light Wilson's suspicions of his wife I thought the whole
tale would shortly be served up in racy pasquinade-but Catherine, who
might have said anything, didn't say a word. She showed a surprising
amount of character about it too-looked at the coroner
with determined eyes under that corrected brow of hers, and swore that
her sister had never seen Gatsby, that her sister was completely happy
with her husband, that her sister had been into no
mischief whatever. She convinced herself of it, and cried into her
handkerchief, as if the very suggestion was more than she could endure.
So Wilson was reduced to a man "deranged by grief" in
order that the case might remain in its simplist form. And it rested
But all this part of it seemed remote and unessential. I found myself
on Gatsby's side, and alone. From the moment I telephoned news of the
catastrophe to West Egg village, every surmise about him,
and every practical question, was referred to me. At first I was
surprised and confused; then, as he lay in his house and didn't move or
breathe or speak, hour upon hour, it grew upon me that I was
responsible, because no one else was interested-interested, I mean,
with that intense personal interest to which every one has some vague
right at the end.
I called up Daisy half an hour after we found him, called her
instinctively and without hesitation. But she and Tom had gone away
early that afternoon, and taken baggage with them.
"Left no address?"
"Say when they'd be back?"
"Any idea where they are? How I could reach them?"
"I don't know. Can't say."
I wanted to get somebody for him. I wanted to go into the room where
he lay and reassure him: "I'll get somebody for you, Gatsby. Don't
worry. Just trust me and I'll get somebody for you-"
Meyer Wolfshiem's name wasn't in the phone book. The butler gave me
his office address on Broadway, and I called Information, but by the
time I had the number it was long after five, and no one
answered the phone.
"Will you ring again?"
"I've rung them three times."
"It's very important."
"Sorry. I'm afraid no one's there."
I went back to the drawing-room and thought for an instant that they
were chance visitors, all these official people who suddenly filled it.
But, as they drew back the sheet and looked at Gatsby
with unmoved eyes, his protest continued in my brain: "Look here, old
sport, you've got to get somebody for me. You've got to try hard. I
can't go through this alone."
Some one started to ask me questions, but I broke away and going
up-stairs looked hastily through the unlocked parts of his desk-he'd
never told me definitely that his parents were dead. But there
was nothing-only the picture of Dan Cody, a token of forgotten
violence, staring down from the wall.
Next morning I sent the butler to New York with a letter to Wolfshiem,
which asked for information and urged him to come out on the next
train. That request seemed superfluous when I wrote it. I
was sure he'd start when he saw the newspapers, just as I was sure
there'd be a wire from Daisy before noon-but neither a wire nor Mr.
Wolfshiem arrived; no one arrived except more police and
photographers and newspaper men. When the butler brought back
Wolfshiem's answer I began to have a feeling of defiance, of scornful
solidarity between Gatsby and me against them all.
Dear Mr. Carraway. This has been one of the most terrible shocks
of my life to me I hardly can believe it that it is true at all. Such a
mad act as that man did should make us all think. I
cannot come down now as I am tied up in some very important business
and cannot get mixed up in this thing now. If there is anything I can do
a little later let me know in a letter by Edgar. I
hardly know where I am when I hear about a thing like this and am
completely knocked down and out.Yours trulyMEYER WOLFSHIEM and then hasty addenda beneath: Let me know
about the funeral etc do not know his family at all.
phone rang that afternoon and Long Distance said Chicago was calling I
thought this would be Daisy at last. But the connection
came through as a man's voice, very thin and far away.
"This is Slagle speaking. . ."
"Yes?" The name was unfamiliar.
"Hell of a note, isn't it? Get my wire?"
"There haven't been any wires."
"Young Parke's in trouble," he said rapidly. "They picked him up when
he handed the bonds over the counter. They got a circular from New York
giving 'em the numbers just five minutes before. What
d'you know about that, hey? You never can tell in these hick towns-"
"Hello!" I interrupted breathlessly. "Look here-this isn't Mr. Gatsby. Mr. Gatsby's dead."
It wasn't until that moment--the moment I heard my own spoken words--that I'd realized what I'd said.
'Mr. Gatsby's dead.'
He'd been dead all this time, in fact.
And yet, I'd been hearing him. Seeing him. Conversing with him.
All the stuff I'd seen. Dear God, all the stuff I'd done.
'Mr. Gatsby's dead.'
There was a long silence on the other end of the wire, followed by an
exclamation . . . then a quick squawk as the connection was broken.
Today's Monday Mischief is taken from the classic The Great Gatsby!
We might be foolish here at Four Fools Press, but we're not dumb! :) We know that keeping you happy keeps you coming back to our site, and we want to know what keeps you happy! We're trying lots of different things here, but we thought -- why not just ask folks what they want?
So, being the wild and crazy fools that we are...that's exactly what we're going to do. Let us know what you'd like to see here on the site. More Writing Warm-ups? More Genre Bending posts? Something else all together? Sound off and let us know -- we might not do what you want, but you never know....we just might!
The allure of sound is the invitation into life. The buzz of bees, the songs of birds, the laughter of children, the whispers of lovers...each draws you into a secret world, one where the musician guides you to explore. Sound can also be highly destructive, the force that shreds realities, buildings, lives, and relationships. A powerful, wonderful tool.
Sound is my only consolation and defense in our ruined world.
The echoes of hidden trysts, newborns, and robins linger only in my brain. These days only shrieks, howls, screams, and maniacal laughter disrupt the uncanny silence. I almost love the quiet, simply because it means one second without some peril seeking to claim me. But I so miss coffee shop conversations and classical music. Their memory lurks within and in my tuning fork. When I play, these ghosts come to life. My guardians against the Pandemonium.
I stand on a rooftop, its tiled shingles tinkling lightly under my steps. Their pianissimo cascade hints at the coming crescendo. Crash! The rubble breaks loose on its tympanic ringing as it rains on glass. A pulse-quickening basal roar responds to the traitorous concussions. I look up to see the spiraling fusion of bone and stone: A conductor. These thousand-eyed monsters grew from the thousand lives destroyed...their collective horror and hatred at this perverse insult to creation. Trapped. Screaming. I unhinge the clasp on my leather instrument case and close my eyes. These cursed minor-chord minions demand you look at them and lose your voice. But I see the woven song of the past and let this music sing through me.
Through my tuning fork.
The yellowhammer joins the butterfly, the spring rains shine in the summer sky, and the autumn festivals circle the flowers blooming through each pulse from my giant instrument. The blasts brighten the air in my imagination, reminding the shambled tower beneath my feet that diners chuckled over sparkling glasses; the grey, smoky skies that their natural hues are blue and gold; the withered concrete pots that oaks drenched their seams with emerald light--and the lively chirps of sparrows. I do not have to see the warped, blind eyes of the beast to notice the choir of sad souls weeping. I do not have to look to find the lost child hurting for its mother. The mourning father missing his bride and daughters. The cabbie forever divorced from his daily drive. I hum their forgotten melodies, and teach them to remember. Teach them to forget the bonds of revenge that drive their gluttonous master to hunt the last notes of happiness in this broken world.
I do not need to see that the songs of the past redeem the future.
I know, because I hear their demonic wails transform into joyous laughter.
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Twin hinged doors swung on the evening breeze. The high roof the local saloon glinted gold in the last light of the sun. The gleam vanished like the residents from the muddy lanes, transforming the once bustling Danish village into a gloomy ghost town. The silver plaque by the paneled doors told every wandering stranger the name of the local drinking hole: Heorot, pride of the mayor. No upstanding man would pass this threshold during these watches of the night. At least, such stout men dared not come since the vile shadow crept forth from the devil's pasture. Only monsters and heroes seemed to cross the Mojave wastes.
Foreign clad heavies sat strewn about the card tables and along the bar. Fierce faces and bright eyes crowned powerful bodies, each with sure hands and fearless spirits. Greater still sat their leader in the far-end of the drink house. His hat brim stood wide and flat, a black mesa looming over the plain of the table, though dipped low to cover half-closed eyes. Fleeces from distant mountains clad his skin, while a fine-stitched poncho draped mighty sinew and muscle. Images of past battles and slain beasts danced along its hem and his arms. This grisled traveler from strange lands squared his shoulders toward the darkening entrance. He chewed a Cuban between clamped jaws, another trophy from another journey. Tonight his word lay on the gambling table. His foe had bested the quickest hands and the fiercest marshals Mayor Hrothgar had at his disposal. All had been shredded limb from limb by el hijo de Cain. Taking his cue from a circulated poster, he ventured above the great river with his posse and a mighty boast: He would kill this "Grendel" man-to-man. The hazel-eyed fighter glared at the gates of death and dared the fates to spit the child of el Diablo through their doors.
While the men slept with hands upon holsters, the foul beast stirred from the hills outside the township limits. This evil spirit slinked down the barren streets, straight into Heorot's swinging gates. Hell-fire smouldered in its wicked gaze as Grendel eyed the room. Twenty men slept easy, churning its vicious hunger. The monster pounced, shearing head and shoulders from the first gunslinger. Grendel slurped this one, then leaped to the next. Three fell before the creature came to the leader in his chair. Blood and drool dripped from its jaws as the fiend bore upon the slouched hat. Hands faster than lightning leaped from under the poncho! Grendel roared in surprise as steel-beam fingers plowed into its thick fur, twisting and pulling. Hazel eyes burned with righteous wrath as the man slammed the monster upon the table, splintering the table and hurling chips along the floorboards. Grendel bounded from the wrecked card table and punched into the fighter's chest. The two smashed into a dresser and its accompanying glass mirror.
Shards and curses flew through the air as the slumbering posse woke to their boss' tussle. The men watched the quarrel amazed at the ferocity of man and beast. Grendel clawed with machete-sized talons, gouging a pillar as the fighter ducked and kicked the monster in the chest. Cain's kid slid along the bar, and the leader jumped after him. The flat-hatted fighter picked up a flagon and guzzled a drought before pummeling Grendel's wide jaw. The creature twisted and pawed his shoulder, flipping the foe onto his back. Sickle fangs flashed for the bearded face, only as a knee punched into its ribs. Both tumbled off the counter, limbs flailing into the whiskey bottles. A crystal rainstorm erupted, sprinkling glass and liquor upon the bloody duelers.
Grendel howled and rammed through the counter's wall, dragging the fighter clamped around its haunches. The hell-spawn mule-kicked, launching the fighter onto balcony. It jumped from another table and after its hated enemy. The man already stood and clasped the sailing monster by its oncoming paws, driving it back over the railing. Beast blasted through a third table with its enemy on top. Grendel raged, gnashed its teeth, and sought to gouge the man with wicked talons. Blades threatened the fighter from all sides, hewing the floorboards and nearby posts. Yet, fist for fang the man fought.
Gunshots rang out as the surrounding men feared their leader would die. No lead forged from the campfires or forges of men would ever singe that wicked creature's hide. Then, at last, the fighter's hands gripped a mangy arm, holding fatal claws away from his neck and bearing down with his own brutal strength. Through gritted teeth and smoking cigar, he growled. The man jerked the monster's limb violently, ripping bone from socket and skin from flesh. Grendel wailed, as its hissing blood stained the floor. The beast shot from under the fighter, tearing through a final column and the formerly cursed doors. With a mortal shriek, the child of satan and Cain raced through the oily-black night. Amid shouts of joy, the fighter rose, holding the mangled limb for all to see.
The posse cried aloud their praise, a better gospel than the bell in the steepled church. The valiant man collected a still upright jug and swigged the honeyed juice inside, relishing in the victory of the night. He looked at the bloody stump on the counter and smiled in his grim manner.
His faithful second held a brimming mug and cheered, "Beowulf, you'll be the talk of the country after tonight!"
The bright-eyed fighter grinned and finished his drink.
Today's Monday Mischief draws from an Anglo-Saxon oldie, Beowulf!
I sucked in a deep breath and dove beneath the surface of the water. The icy wall of shivering pain that awaited me nearly blasted the air from my lungs. I swam into the darkness after Cobbs, but the creature that nabbed him was gone. Out of the frigid blackness, one came up for me. Initially, I only caught a flash of it and it looked like a living torpedo with odd black and white markings. Now, bearing down on me full bore, I knew it for what it was.
Let’s just say that wasn’t really comforting—at all.
Orcinus orca. Also known as an Orca Whale, or in the more common parlance, Killer Whale.
And here I was, all alone and looking like a big can of opened tuna.
My arms started pinwheeling, churning towards the surface in as narrow an angle as I could manage. I wanted—needed—to get to the surface as quickly as possible. I had no earthly idea what good it would do me, but something small, scared and primitive was screaming at me to get away from the GIANT MAW FILLED WITH ROWS OF PEG TEETH. My head smashed through the ocean’s surface about the same time as the Orca hit my calves. There was no immediate crunching and crushing, nor was there any inexorable pull towards the interminable blackness below, so hope flashed in my mind.
Hope that was dashed a moment later when the giant mammal’s momentum vaulted me up out of the water and into the freezing air. I cartwheeled from the tremendous force and as I went heels-over-head, I caught a glimpse of the whale waiting for me below; his pink hungry mouth open wide.
This was not going to be good.
I was done for.
All of the things I’d faced and fought and this—a whale—was going to end me. Not that I dislike whales or anything, but com’on; a guy who’d taken out city-sized robots, acid-spewing creatures from the Nether Realms, and star-snacking aliens getting chomped to bits by the only other air-breathing mammal within a thousand miles? Talk about irony.
It’s weird how your mind works when you think you’re about to die. Here I was, falling down into a waiting whale’s mouth and all I could think of was dinner and being forced to eat Mom’s infamous Chicken Asparagus Casserole. That was the vilest substance I’d ever encountered. It seemed to defy the very laws of physics: slimy yet sticky and it had the uncanny ability to grow exponentially in size and fill any space into which it was thrust.
Suddenly, the whale’s mouth was filled with a glop of foul, stringy nastiness: Mom’s Casserole!
I can honestly say that before today, I’d never seen a whale gag.
I bounded off the back of the tremendous mammal’s back as it was desperately trying to dislodge the plug of rancid goo from its mouth and throat.
A whale ralph is a very, very odd sound, let me tell you.
Right before I hit the water I realized that somehow I’d flown (or been flung) out of the range of the lodestones’ influence and my imagos had fired back up. So it seemed that the things had a definite range, and that range seemed to extend only in a horizontal direction, but not straight up.
I wondered about straight down.
“Hold on Cobbs, I’m comin’.”
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Threads is a fun little idea that we're going to try out here at Four
Fools Press. The idea is simple, we give you the threads: an image, an
inspirational tune, a writing prompt, and a list of words. You have to
weave the threads together to form a word tapestry. When you're done, if
you like, post your story as a response to our Google + thread: https://plus.google.com/100753594685473747766/posts/S1ucDv1dJTc
and we'll pick the best of the batch and name a winner. (You must use
all of the elements in some manner to be considered to win).
In response to a fantastic review, author Corey Blankenship seeks to give interested fans a little more insight into his latest novel, Night's Nadir! Let us know what you think! Warning: Some spoilers lurk inside this "epi-prologue" intermission between Barnabas' adventures!
His head swam as if a bottle of rubbing alcohol had been dumped inside his skull. He went to rub his temples and immediately regretted the gesture. His fingers pressed thick gauze through a ragged hole, touching the scratchy material to something hard and smooth: bone. The rubbing alcohol ignited into a mind-gnawing inferno. Barnabas nearly spilled his insides on the table as his head spasmed away from his betraying hand.
“You might not want to touch that,” a gentle voice admonished.
Barnabas opened puffy eyelids, which ached from the effort. Light pounced through the open wounds, adding heat to his mental fire. Whatever vigor brought him to life had ebbed to a nearly mortal scale. What a hellacious dream… The internal moan swirled to the front of the turbulent fumes of his smouldering thoughts. Then, a steel resolve closed around the pain, screening it off into a proper kiln to distill his memories. His gaze narrowed and took in the scene about him. Barnabas had been taken to the wire before--though he had never crossed the Line as he had after the despairing flight from the mines of Mufkat.
Few details adorned the room. The sterile stucco walls, sandstone tiled floors, and solid cedar door suggested the grizzled veteran remained in the Middle East. Barnabas noted that the stainless steel table underneath his hands offered scant reflection, scoured of any detail or edges. Heavy pieces of forged metal clung and chafed unforgivingly at his wrists: handcuffs. He adjusted his stiff legs. Besides the bone-searing ache in every muscle and joint, a dull chink told him the truth.
Barnabas had been taken prisoner.
“Interesting…” A man pronounced in a polished, emotionless tone.
The veteran studied the figure who leaned against the far wall. Hazel eyes, devoid of apparent interest, scrutinized the prisoner; his manicured beard and hair, both the color of riverbed silt, framed his impassive gaze and sharp jawline; his two-piece suit and coordinated tie announced his allegiance. Barnabas’ gut kindled. The warning beacon reached the will-induced calm section of his mind.
The captive looked from the oily-haired agent to his partner. The agent sat before Barnabas, his features softer than the others, crowned by neatly-parted golden locks. Only the thick, Norse-looking beard kept him from looking like a cherub. Sapphire eyes sparkled, lines stretching out along the skin around them. The well-worn folds around his gaze hinted to Barnabas this one felt the pains of others. A decanter and cup sat in front of the agent. He pushed the crystal glass across the table into Barnabas’ reach.
“Here, drink. This will help with your headache,” the captor offered.
“What is in it?” Barnabas croaked as he eyed the clear liquid.
“Just water. It’s pure, straight from the Source,” the man added.
Barnabas noted the strange emphasis on Source, but his gut didn’t trigger. Perhaps this will quench the furnace in my skull...or poison me. An occupational hazard, the veteran mused. He sipped, then chugged as the frigid water rinsed over his cracked lips, parched gum beds, and down his arid throat. A pleasant tingling flushed through starved tissue, as though thousands of tributaries awakened and carried the enlivening fluid into the ravaged desert of his body. What had been a wasteland of torn flesh bristled with renewed vitality. The skin around his wrapped wounds shivered with a tickling sensation. The heady warmth of revelry started to replace the famished hunger of pain in his head. He nearly tossed the cup across the table in his hunger for more.
“Hold on there, Barnabas,” the standing man commanded in his languid tone.
“We’ll give you more. Don’t worry,” offered the one at the table.
“How do you know my name?” Strength returned to Barnabas’ voice. So did suspicion.
“You’re well known to the Sector,” the first agent replied, “at least to those who have to deal with your antics.”
“The Sector wastes its resources if it keeps tabs on a lowly soldier,” Barnabas countered.
The agent stepped from the wall and leaned over the table. His voice sparked with a flinty tone. “A professor-turned-paramilitary officer is not so low as you think. Especially for the group you’ve thrown in with.”
“Silas,” the other agent interjected, putting a hand on his partner’s arm. “Let’s take things slowly. He just stepped back from the Other Side, after all. Besides, it would’ve been more work for us if he remained in the Pit.”
Silas sighed. “Yeah, guess you’re right, Thomas. Then again,” Silas returned his steely gaze to the prisoner, “him having the Piece makes things sticky. A lot more sticky.”
“True,” Thomas poured a glass of water, but didn’t pass it to captive. “Why don’t you help us fill in the blanks, Barnabas? What happened in the mines?”
Barnabas stared at the glass, then at Thomas. This wasn’t his first interrogation. “You know my name and rank. That is all you need to know.”
Sad lines furrowed further in Thomas’ face. Silas frowned. “You can either tell us or we will draw the memories kicking and screaming from your head.”
The words came without menace, as if spoken as fact.
Thomas nudged the glass closer, but not quite into arm’s reach. “It’s far simpler if you share in your own words--and much more pleasant for everyone involved.”
“What would you care to hear a Jadd’s story of ancestors, the Land of Turquoise, and the pride of being the first civilization?” chuckled the prisoner.
Silas tersely replied, “Everything. You’re no grandfather, and we both know there is more to the story.”
“True,” Barnabas stretched the word. His temple throbbed. “I have not been so fortunate to settle down. Your kind keeps me busy abroad.”
“You underestimate our patience, Barnabas.” Thomas interrupted. “Your deflections, while humorous, only delay the process. But they do not disrupt our progress. We have you here. We will eventually have the Altar Piece.”
“So you plan to take the turquoise wall panel? You’d destroy a priceless artifact?” The veteran quipped.
Silas laughed. “No, that stone will stay locked in the earth. Your men will see to that.”
Thomas weighed in. “We get the Altar Piece. You get the vault. It’s a win-win.”
Barnabas wondered why they gave up on the mines.More would lurk in the parallel tunnels the other squad had entered. What did they want? The vault has the Gate and Keystone to the Pharoah's Prison. He mentally added, of Djinn, apparently.
He didn't want to know what price the kings of old had paid to seal, and then wield, such spirits. A terrible secret he hoped the Sons could keep from foul hands.
As if reading his mind, Silas tipped his hand, “Whatever happened in the vault, you walked away with the Altar Piece. The Boss only knows why…but we are here to collect it.”
The image of a blue-flamed cross shimmered in Barnabas’ mind. Then a golden-red storm consumed it. He shuddered.
“Herein lies the problem. We can’t get the Piece out of you. Not yet, anyway…” continued Silas.
“It’s not yours to have,” Barnabas retorted. Whatever he had, he would not surrender it.
“Nor is it yours,” Silas answered deadpan.
Thomas pressed the cup into the prisoner’s hands. “We want to free you from this burden. It’s not yours to bear. Look at the state it’s already left you in.”
Barnabas accepted the drink and imbibed with more reserve. Another wave of clarity and cleansing coursed through him. He felt like a new man. The image of hissing fangs and hungering fire fizzled. The symbol of the handled cross burned clearer. His most recent past ordered itself, and, for a time, could not haunt him. He remembered the Gate. He remembered the djinn. He remembered the Power. Power that the springwater seemed to feed.
“What do mean by Altar Piece?” Barnabas queried.
Thomas smiled faintly, “All you need to know is that these artifacts belong in the most secure place possible. Mufkat had been safe enough, until your group from the Sons of Alexandria uncovered the secret vault’s existence.”
“Sorry to be so productive,” the veteran added wryly.
“Anyway, we will move these Pieces forthwith out of the Field,” Silas concluded. “Starting with the one inside your head.”
“I’m afraid gentlemen, it won’t be so easy.” Barnabas said. “These artifacts belong in the hands of museums.”
The veteran had already guessed the door would be locked. He hadn’t seen weapons, but he knew appearances were deceiving. Whatever these agents were capable of, he knew they hadn’t prepared for him to use the Piece. Perhaps they thought he didn’t know what it was or how to use it. Unless he wanted to stay and stretch his military-grade counter-interrogation training, Barnabas would have to activate the symbol. What had they called him?, he recalled.
The Wild Card.
He smiled broadly and said in a generous tone, “Thank you for the hospitality and insightful conversation, but I have a mission to finish.”
The veteran mentally touched the Mark lurking inside him. The Ankh blazed into sight on his forehead and violently flashed, filling the room in blinding azure flames. Barnabas disappeared, engulfed in fire. In the afterglow, the stucco blackened to tar and the floor to soot. The door had enkindled along its frame.
“Sulphur and Smoke!” cursed Silas, patting his fuming suit.
Thomas collected himself off the floor and righted the warped table. “We better alert the entire Sector.”
Silas grimaced. He touched an uncomfortably warm earpiece, sending out the alert. “...and now the Wild Card knows that there are other Pieces. I repeat, Priority Alpha is at large.”
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"Yes, Sir, the Avenger! A good name!" muttered Captain Nemo, crossing his arms.
The terrible specter that lay broken in the depths disappeared at intervals as we climbed toward the surface. I stared upon the Captain, changed by his mood. Fury shifted his leonine features into a masque of horror: Eyes burned white-hot with the fires of a world-engine; long rows of opalescent fangs stretched forth from a draconian snout; his viperous tail slashed in search of a victim to crush. All about him an atmosphere of brimstone and impending peril kindled. Gone was the thoughtful, lion-esque lord of the Nautilus, transformed into an emissary of a hatred either monstrous or sublime. I trembled at his transfigured presence.
Thunder pealed along the the hull. We had been struck. The Captain did not stir from the vacant portal. I rushed along the centralpassage; a Turu crewman leaped over me, partially flying from bat-wings or grasping ivory rungs with strong paws. My companions joined me as we entered the jets of air that led to the observation deck. The lieutenant stood at the fore, his scaled hood concealing the lean, striped hyena face. He stared through amber eyes upon the assailing vessel before departing back into the Nautilus.
Flaming tongues seared the night air. A great ship drove at us, plumes of smoke pouring from its top deck flumes. Land, in his zealous reptilian manner, gripped the rail and peered through the failing dusk at the encroaching vessel. His sleek spheres filled with luminous liquid, bioluminescent lamps from which he could peer into the distance and the depths with ease.
"A mech-of-war!" He hissed. "May it reach us; and, if necessary, sink this cursed Nautilus."
"Friend Ned," replied Conseil, "what harm can it do to the Nautilus? Can it attack beneath the waves? Can it cannonade us at the bottom of the sea?"
"Tell me, Ned?" said I, "can you recognise what Designation she belongs to?"
The Auroran's iris thinned as the glow in his ocular lanterns blazed brighter. He fixed these piercing torches upon the vessel.
"No, sir," he replied. "I cannot tell what Designation she belongs to, for she shows no colours. But I can declare she is a mech-of-war, for a long tongue of ghost flame flutters from her main mast. If she nears within a mile, I shall throw myself into the sea, and I should advise you do the same."
I did not reply to the Auroran's suggestion, but continued watching the ship. Whether Gearlocks, Hingemen, or Joules, she would be sure to take us in if we would only reach her. Lightning sparked on the foreign vessel; an azure bolt struck just shy of the Nautilus, sending up a column of steam. Afterward, a bank of scalding saline mist rolled inches from our post.
"What! They are firing at us!" I exclaimed.
"So please you, sir," said Ned, "they have recognized the unicorn, and they are firing at us."
"But," I exclaimed, "surely they can see that there are sentient souls atop the beast?"
"It is perhaps, because of that," replied Ned Land, looking at me.
A whole flood of light burst upon my mind. The races knew the supposed dire narwhal to be an elder spirit apotheosized into a living submarine vessel--more dangerous than a mere supernatural cetacean. Indeed, when we fell from the stricken Geared Emancipator, the ship's seer must have noted the overwhelming aura unique to elder beings. On every sea they were now seeking this mystical engine of destruction. Terrible indeed! If Captain Nemo employed the Nautilus in works of vengeance, as we supposed...then the races had united to hunt not a chimerical creature, but a spirit who had vowed a deadly hatred toward them. We would not be received as refugees, but skewered by merciless foes. Another blast of fatal thunderbolts flew past the waterline. My eyes recorded the sapphire light for several seconds after the volley.
The Auroran said, "Let us signal them. They will then, perhaps, understand that we are honest folks."
Land raised a webbed hand, conjuring a translucent orb of mustard hue; he had scarcely manifested it when an iron tail struck him down. He fell, despite his great strength, upon the deck.
"Fool!" exclaimed the Captain. "Do you wish to be pierced by the spur of the Nautilus before it is hurled at this vessel?"
Captain Nemo harrowed us with his voice. Much more with his presence! All flesh faded from his face, revealing a metallic dragon's skull, eye-sockets blazing with emerald fire. He held the Auroran within the vice of his calcified tail. Raising a bone claw in menace, the Captain turned upon the oncoming behemoth of the frothing mech-of-war. The lumbering amalgamation of gears and plates continued to hurl prismatic lances at the enclosing quarry. The entire Elder Creature flared a ghastly pale glow, an indication of its murderous intent. It knew its master's mood. With luminous barbs raining around him, the Captain roared in a powerful voice,
"Ah, ship of an accursed Designation, you know who I am! I do not want your colours to know you by! Look! and I will show you mine!"
Then his talon tore the air, a deeper darkness flapping in the wind. The Void unfurled, streaming as a banner from a dorsal spar. The heart-engine beneath us raged a sonorous peal that hummed through the entire vessel. An impervious bubble blossomed around us, an unshakable cage experienced before. We became helpless witnesses to the carnage. The starless banner crackled as the prow-spike surged, heedless of the wizard-weapons barraging the turbulent seas around, then above, as we dove. The Nautilus dipped beneath the liquid surface, then plunged through the mech-of-war as a needle through cloth. Cauldrons, cogs, arcs of lightning, and perilous smog swirled around, then behind, us. The mech-of-war sank, and the Captain drew the Nautilus aside the submerging vessel in its marine burial.
Jointed machines scrambled along twisted wires, followed by elves, as they clamoured for salvation. Trapped beneath the ocean, the mighty mech-of-war buckled and erupted, tossing the survivors along a violent wake. Some choked before our eyes, unable to utter a spell of warding in the suffocating waters. Grates sputtered noxious fumes as individual life-engines in mechanical bodies took on water. I began to beg clemency, when Captain Nemo commanded, "I am the law, and I am the judge! I am the oppressed, and there is the oppressor! Through him I have lost all that I loved, cherished, and venerated--kingdom, wife, children, ancestor. I saw all perish! All that I hate is there! Say no more!"
Today's Monday Mischief comes from the "Father of Steampunk," Jules Verne and his inspiring 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea!
Being the fools that we are at Four Fools Press, we always look for crazy and strange challenges to press ourselves to greater heights of creativity. A couple of us gathered together and spun up a straight-up doozy: Try to write, edit, create a cover, perform a professional layout, and publish a short story in one weekend!
As you can see, we're pretty crazy.
I think you will LOVE what we came up with in our two-and-a-half-day mad dash to the finish line!
Prepare yourself for some daring adventures, ancient mysteries, forbidden secrets, and perilous dangers. We've worked hard to bring you a tale straight from the turbulent lands of the Middle East, though from an area most see as picked-over bones: Sinai. I think you'll find the rugged peninsula contains more than bearded men in robes and sand (though there's plenty of that too *wink* ). Some things are best left down in the deep, dark past.
I'll stop the gab and let you take a gander at the first Weekend Wonder: Night's Nadir!
It's Friday the 13th, so we thought we might give you a little something spooky. As it happens, this Friday the 13th also coincides with a Foolish Friday update, so we'll go a little nuts and give you a glimpse into the next episode of Tenet's Tales! We just released The Truth Is Out There (Tenet's Tales, Part 0), so enjoy this shivery scene from The Tanzanian Terror (Tenet's Tales, Part 1); coming to you soon from Four Fools Press!
August, 1517 A.D.
Pemba Island--east of Tanzania, Africa.
For all its devastation to my escape, I was thankful for the supreme distraction afforded to me by the Eid al-Fitr. With the entire island seemingly in the throes of a festival, at least for now there were precious few interested in engaging a stranger in conversation. I had no doubt that this would wan as both wine and time flowed but for now, so long as I remained in the shadows, few had reason to be interested in me.
After quickly obtaining an evening meal of a spicy rice known to the locals as pilau and coconut bean soup and a steaming mug of chai tea, I retreated again to my roof perch. The pilau was like a smoky fire across my tongue, a nice compliment to the homely, yet sweet beans from the soup. The heady, spicy scent from both the burning and the living cloves wafted around me like a soothing, invisible sea. As the equatorial heat of the day drained away into far cooler night, I felt a measure of the tension from the day begin to slip away as the food hit my grousing stomach.
Perhaps that’s why I was taken at unawares.
A tiny pinprick of sensation on the right side of my neck, quickly followed by a cold, but burning line of metal across my throat. My soup and rice were scattered carelessly across the roof as black silhouettes blocked the stars from my view. My spine stiffened as my body unconsciously recoiled from the razor sharp line at my naked throat. Something hard, hot, and sweaty stopped me cold and a gust of rotten-fish breath rolled over me like a gout of putrid sick.
“I have you, Mzungu. You only thought you could escape me.” The voice and a laugh that sounded like a man strangling another immediately informed me: Spittle-beard, one of the skin-hunters who'd been chasing me; seeking my white flesh. A cold spike of fear shot through my gut. Spittle-beard growled with satisfaction and wrapped a thick tentacle of an arm around my chest, yanking me closer.
One of the dark shadows before me squatted, his eyes white and wide with excitement. They bored into mine with the look of a man enspelled, but his words were for his leader’s ears. “How shall we skin him, Master, from the toes up--or the head down?” A diabolic leer spread across his dirt-brown features.
In an instant, cold sweat sprang up from every pore in my body. A thready scream erupted from my lips, “N-n-n-ooo!”
Rough hands grabbed me, yanking me backwards while pulling my wrists together behind my back. My shoulders and elbows flared in hot agony as i felt them pop out of the sockets from the sheer violence of the movement. The third thug produced a thick coil of heavy, hand-woven hemp and fished for my flailing feet. The men moved with such synchronization, it was hard to tell in the dark where one man’s hands ended and another began.
The shock of the initial affront began to recede and I began to thrash my extremities and scream like a mad-man, careful to keep my head and neck as still as stone. Again came the sharp stab of pain on the right side of my neck, jangling oddly on the edge of my awareness, but there was no time. The silver flash of a knife in the waning moon’s pale light caught my eye as surely as the first rays of dawn.
“Be still fool! Scarred hides are worth far less than pristine!” The second man’s words were full of equal parts mirth and evil intent. The thug’s knife began slicing away my cassock in skilled strokes. My body and mind screamed in fear, knowing that my flesh would be next. My voice had vanished--perhaps in an attempt to save itself. My throat felt raw and bloody.
“Drag him to the edge and bleed him out there. That should calm him down a bit!” The third man, his voice almost indistinguishable from his two companions came from near my feet--both of which were now bound tightly. My robes hung in tatters about me, naked and defenseless the men hauled me like nothing more than a massive day’s catch towards the roof’s edge.
The knife vanished for a moment, followed by a blow of something hard and calloused into my gut. The wind was blasted from me, along with a scream--finally.
The skin-hunters laughed: a trio of evil, mocking voices and flipped me over. I was nothing to them--little more than a prize to be prepared for slaughter and then for market. A sharp pain in my neck, like a sliver of metal gouged into my flesh and bone. My head hung over the side of the roof, but the street was lost in a haze of fiery tears that I could not blink away.
Again came the scent of fish, left too long in the sun--of bloated bodies and buzzing, hungry flies.
Palms coated with scouring sand snatched my forehead, my eye sockets, my nose and upper lip, yanking my head up and back. My neck cracked with the sound of a snapping branch. I warbled out a small protest.
Again came the raucous laughter. This was nothing more than a game to them. I was nothing more than an object--not a living being. Another deep sharp pain flared in my neck: cold and needy.
The voice of the knife-wielder erupted near my right ear. “His God will not hear him nor help him now, eh, Spittle-beard?”
For a split-second, the world stood perfectly still--poised on the head of a needle, as it were.
‘Spittle-beard?’ Why would he call him that?
Something in the universe snapped back into focus and I looked up from my rice and beans. My neck throbbed and I could feel a small line of hot blood on my neck. Everything on the roof was calm and still, but the celebration still surged in Chake-Chake beneath me. Only moments had passed since my last bite. Spicy rice was still on my tongue.
What had just happened? Had I imagined it? Impossible--my pulse still raced with raw terror and panic.
I touched the right side of my neck--wet with blood, but something else, embedded in my flesh. I plucked it out and brought it before my black-and-silver eyes. A small, razor sharp tooth.
The taste of copper was stuck in the back of my throat.
What was the meaning of this? One thing was clear: there was more at work here than merely some depraved albino hunters. Whatever it was, it was abnormal and intently focused on me…
If you like this, you can read more just like it in our latest Four Fools Release, The Truth Is Out There - already an Amazon Bestseller! Get your copy today!